NAFTA and uneven development in the North American apparel industry

Book Section (Chapter)

The various contributions to this book have documented how NAFTA-inspired firm strategies are changing the geography of apparel production in North America. The authors show in myriad ways how companies at different positions along the apparel commodity chain are responding to the new institutional and regulatory environment that NAFTA creates. By making it easier for U.S. companies to take advantage of Mexico as a nearby low-cost site for export-oriented apparel production, NAFTA is deepening the regional division of labor within North America, and this process has consequences for firms and workers in each of the signatory countries. In the introduction to this book we alluded to the obvious implications of shifting investment and trade patterns in the North American apparel industry for employment in the different countries. In this concluding chapter we focus on Mexico in the NAFTA era, specifically the extent to which Mexico's role in the North American economy facilitates or inhibits its economic development. W e begin with a discussion of the contemporary debate about Mexico's development, which turns on the question of how to assess the implications of Mexico's rapid and pro-found process of economic reform. Second, we focus on the textile and apparel industries as sectors that have been significantly affected by changes in regulatory environments at both the global and regional levels. Third, we examine the evidence regarding Mexico's NAFTA-era export dynamism, and in particular we emphasize the importance of interfirm networks, both for making sense of Mexico's meteoric rise among apparel exporters and for evaluating the implications of this dynamism for development. Fourth, we turn to a consideration of the national political-economic environment that shapes developmental outcomes for all Mexicans. Although regional disparities within Mexico are profound, aspects of government policy, such as management of the national currency, and characteristics of the institutional environment, such as industrial relations, have nationwide effects, and critics of NAFTA charge that these factors are contributing to a process of economic and social polarization that is ever more evident (Morales 1999; Dussel Peters 2000). Finally, we suggest that the mixed consequences of Mexico's NAFTA-era growth can be taken as emblematic of the contradictions that the process of globalization poses for economic and social development. The anti-sweatshop campaign in North America is one example of transnational or crossborder movements that are emerging to address the negative consequences of this process. In bringing attention to the problem of sweatshop production in North America, activists are developing strategies that rely on a network logic that is not dissimilar to the approaches reflected in the various chapters of this book. © 2009 by Temple University Press. All rights reserved.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Bair, J; Spener, DA; Gereffi, G

Duke Editors

Cited Editors

  • Gereffi, G; Spener, D; Bair, J

Published Date

  • December 10, 2002

Book Title

  • Free Trade & Uneven Development: The North American Apparel Industry after Nafta


  • 16

Start / End Page

  • 327 - 340

Published By

Place of Publication

  • Philadelphia, PA


  • 14

International Standard Book Number 13 (ISBN-13)

  • 9781566399678